Notre Dame midterm grades: Defensive backs

Notre Dame midterm grades: Defensive backs
October 14, 2013, 3:00 pm
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Through six games, Notre Dame has five interceptions and 14 passes broken up, well off 2012's pace -- but that's understandable, since Manti Te'o and his elite ball skills are no longer a part of the defense. 

But Notre Dame's defensive backs haven't stepped up to fill that interception void, or at least come close to filling it. Bennett Jackson has two picks and Matthias Farley has one, after Irish DBs intercepted eight passes in 2012. 

The problem is Notre Dame's defense is getting its hands on fewer passes. Last year, the Irish defense defended 50 passes in 13 games, this year that total is 19 through six contests.

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The secondary has been susceptible to coverage breakdowns in key moments, too. KeiVarae Russell struggled to contain Michigan's Jeremy Gallon in a 41-30 loss, and a cover-three breakdown led to an easy Blake Bell touchdown throw in Notre Dame's 35-21 loss to Oklahoma. 

It's not all bad news for this unit, though -- there's plenty of depth across the board, a luxury the Irish didn't have last year. And it's talented depth, too -- Cole Luke has found his way on the field, while Max Redfield may push for playing time in the second half as well.

But it's hard to argue with the numbers: Notre Dame ranks 62nd in passing S&P+ and is 89th in passing defense. 

Midterm position grade: C

More grades: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers